Art for Art’s Sake, Money for God’s Sake

Filed in National by on January 25, 2018

4998F3F6-D654-4AEE-9D83-1CA23CB928D3That refrain from an old 10cc song leapt to mind when I saw this story about the White House asking the Guggenheim Museum to loan it a Van Gogh, “Landscape With Snow.” No dice, the Guggenheim responded, but we do have a lovely interactive sculpture titled “America,” no longer on display, that artist Maurizio Cattelan will let you have on long-term loan.

“America” is a solid-gold toilet. From the WaPo, which broke the story:

Cattelan, reached by phone in New York, referred questions about the toilet to the Guggenheim, saying with a chuckle, “It’s a very delicate subject.” Asked to explain the meaning of his creation and why he offered it to the Trumps, he said, “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”

My favorite part of the WaPo story is that this marvelous quote is followed by the sentence, “He declined to reveal the cost of the gold it took to create ‘America,’ though it has been estimated to have been more than $1 million,” demonstrating, apparently without irony, precisely what the artist was satirizing.

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  1. bamboozer says:

    Well, having said that you’ve got to admit said golden toilet would fit right in with Trump’s redecorating style.

  2. RE Vanella says:

    Cattelan is a genius. Out Duchamps Duchamp.

    He did the meteor smashing into the pope, among other things.

  3. Paul says:

    A gold toilet does NOT out-DuChamp a urinal off the rack…The urinal was titled, “Readymade” which unveils the thinking behind the art. While noteworthy in its own right, particularly in the context of tRump, it is a much different statement about society and art.

  4. Alby says:

    Paul: I always preferred the bottle rack, because it was an off-the-rack rack (don’t know if the pun works in French, though).

  5. nathan arizona says:

    Duchamps and Trump are both post-modernists who want to confuse art and reality. One for good and one for ill.

  6. RE Vanella says:

    I wasn’t making such a one-to-one. Pisser vs. Can. I meant taking Duchamp and moving on, etc.

  7. Alby says:

    The idea behind calling a readymade “art” can only be understood in the context of a binary art/not art worldview, and so is only of interest to museum-goers. Outside of the museum it’s just a urinal. For that matter, if they had hooked it up to the plumbing as the Guggenheim did the toilet, it would be just a urinal inside the museum, too.

    In contrast, everybody gets the point of a solid-gold toilet called America. You don’t have to have any ideas about art to get it. You don’t have to hook it up to the plumbing to get it, though that added an element I can’t stop wondering — how did they clean the toilet without marring the metal?

  8. RE Vanella says:

    Sometimes a soup can isn’t simply a soup can.

  9. Alby says:

    REV: Funny story. Have a good friend on Philadelphia police force. He once gave me a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup with a signature on it that says Andy Warhol. This object supposedly was seized in a raid on a drug dealer’s house. Of course there’s no provenance there at any point along the chain — the cop could be lying, the drug dealer could by lying, the person who sold it to the drug dealer could be lying, and so on. So all I have is a can of soup with somebody’s famous name Sharpied on. But it could be a Warhol.

  10. Alby says:

    So there you go. I have no doubt people asked him to sign soup cans fairly frequently, but I wouldn’t think it worth more than any other autograph. It’s the total lack of provenance of my can I find appealing.